Florida Beachgoers Left Behind 13,000 Pounds of Trash Last Week on This Beach
When beaches in Florida reopened last week, people flocked to them to absorb the sun, sand and water. Unfortunately, many forgot to take their trash with them when they left.
While pollution and emissions have precipitously dropped worldwide, Cocoa Beach saw a huge spike in garbage as cleanup crews collected more than 13,000 pounds strewn across the sand over the weekend, as The Hill reported.
The beaches, which reopened on April 21, will remain open, but authorities will start to crack down on litter by increasing the fines and enforcement, according to Florida Today. Littering will now come with a $250 fine.
"As restrictions are becoming more relaxed during this pandemic, the City of Cocoa Beach is beginning to see an influx of day-trippers to our beaches, along with piles of unlawfully discarded trash in their wake," Cocoa Beach Police Department wrote in a notice, according to Florida Today. "This will not be tolerated."
In a Facebook post, the Cocoa Beach Police Department stated that they will be "focusing on litter violations in the days and weeks ahead in an effort to educate the public and mitigate this repulsive and disrespectful behavior."
This weekend's litter collection surpassed the previous weekend's total of roughly 12,000 pounds. Two weekends ago, cleanup crews collected 297 bags of trash, which weigh roughly 40 pounds per bag. Bryan Bobbitt, executive director of Keep Brevard Beautiful, told CNN that the true number would be higher since they did not collect many larger items like tent poles and beach chairs that were left behind.
This weekend's total was 305 bags of trash, according to Bobbitt. Volunteers and observers have noticed that the discarded items are often single-use plastics.
"People will come from out of town and leave an umbrella, a tent or chairs because it's a onetime use," said Bobbitt to CNN. "Chip bags, plastic straw wrappers and anything can get blown into the dunes."
Cocoa Beach Police Chief Scott Rosenfeld said in a statement that the local community works "very hard to be stewards of environmental sustainability," as The Hill reported.
"If I need to relocate critical resources during our peak season to combat litterers, we are no longer asking our visitors to comply with our litter laws, we expect it, and there will be consequences for offenders," he added.
The litter poses a threat to Florida's marine life and to the beach environment. Keep Brevard Beautiful says the goal of their cleanup efforts is to keep the environment safe for humans and for animals.
"When we see something that can be a choking hazard to marine life, we make it a point to get that stuff as well," Bobbitt said to CNN. "If we don't pick it up, it gets blown into the water. We've all seen the photo of the straw stuck in a sea turtle's nose or a 6-pack ring around a bird's neck."This past weekend, the police only issued one citation for littering. Noting some of the challenges in issuing a litter violation, Cocoa Beach Detective Sgt. Thomas Cooper told CNN, "You have to say they're the person who legally left that trash. The officers are stuck."
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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